One day my life will not run like a circus. On the weekend, in a friend’s pool, my new four year old son (a whole new blog-post in itself) threw a lead weight, which hit my eight year old nephew (who was visiting from interstate) in the head. I sat said four year old out of the pool with a two-minute timer for timed, time-out but my nephew was screaming hysterically and appeared to have two bumps on his head.
The day was as hot as Hades, the fourth in a long line of days that had succeeded in incinerating our tomato plants and cooking the house so that Hell’s furnace seemed to breathe up from beneath the floor boards. Anyone who has survived a heat wave in Adelaide knows that tempers flaring are the least flammable of your worries. So after consoling the victim, he proceeded to play in the pool, thrash my friend’s son at some Mario game or other in a games room that would make most millenials drool and consume vast quantities of salty junk food. So he seemed fine to me, but I’m no doctor.
When we arrived home, I limped inside. I had cracks in my heels from being barefoot all summer and was limping to avoid the pain. My mum was waiting for us. This is the same woman who would take me to the doctor’s at the hint of a sneeze. The one who probably supported my immunity to antibiotics. The same loving matriarch who packed me off to the doctor at 16 because I thought I saw something came out of my nipple. The excruciating embarrassment at having to report this to a relative stranger still makes me flush. The exchange went something like this
I just squeezed and I think something came out, is that normal?
I don’t know, people don’t usually go around squeezing their breasts
Nothing to report here..
This is the same mother who once wanted to take me to the emergency department after I consumed a curry, half my husband’s, a third of my stepdaughter’s and a bucket of wine over dinner, and then suffered indigestion. The same mother who convinced me you could get pelvic inflammatory diseases from toilet seats and it was quite possible to be dead by morning from toxic shock if you left a tampon in overnight. Once I went through unnecessary surgery, convinced I had endometriosis. Are you getting the picture? When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, for real, in 2005, I thought she might have a conniption.
Anyway she dismissed my limp once she heard about the lead weight incident from my nephew and started rifling through his hair like a seasoned nit picker. And before you knew it she had me convinced there was a dent, possibly a depressed fracture in his skull, and of course I couldn’t possibly send him back to his dad without getting it checked. So I phoned health direct hoping they would assuage my fears and tell me to get a grip. Sadly however I feel they always refer you to a doctor and this was no different, the nurse on the other end advised me to take him to the emergency department. Just to be on the safe side.
So we all hop along the Queen Liz and my four year old, who has had some unpleasant experiences involving ambulances starts to act up in order to deal with the trauma this trip is reintroducing into his little life and bringing it to the forefront of his consciousness. This played itself out as ambulance siren imitations. NEE NAW, NEE NAW. Did I mention my nephew had to be at the airport in 2 hours for his return flight home?
The triage nurse was a very small bespectacled man with weasel like features who peered at me through bullet proof perspex and in cultivated, disinterested tones demanded the reason we were wasting his time. He glanced at the clock and raised his eyes to heaven and with no promise of a speedy resolution dismissed us to the next perspex window where we had to repeat the same story to an equally disinterested woman.
Then, we waited. Except my little boy cannot wait. He has to distract himself from his discomfort in this place. He wanders around nee nawing and declares he is hungry, despite being fed before we left. He hopefully eyes the vending machine. When I refuse to give in, a nice lady who must be at least 100 kilos offers to buy the poor little fella a packet of chips. Shamed into action, and publicly cornered, I buy the salty contraband to avoid a scene. But by now he is consumed with watching another obese fellow deal with heat stroke supported by an unhappy spouse sporting an arm sleeved with tattoos and answering the doctor’s questions.
Has he had anything to drink today?
Yeah mate, but nothing that didn’t come outta a cask!
And while she wrestled him back into his cot and responded to his requests to please reveal his current location You’re in the ‘ospital you fucking stupid bugger…my four old looks on.
I completely miss this exchange because I am in with the nurse who is explaining that our skulls are made up of three bones and the “dent” kindly located by my panic merchant mother is probably his fontanelle. Finally we get a letter saying he is fit to fly, the doc was not worried, but my dispirited nephew was not convinced, and was going on about his strange altered vision with white circles around everything (this, by the way, reinforced to me that paranoia about health is somehow inscribed into my familial genes – nature/nurture be damned). So the doctor forbids any TV or video games FOR THREE DAYS. This results in anxious tears. Desperate to get him on the plane and home, and realising the thought of a three hour flight unaccompanied by an adult and without video games is his idea of hell in a hand basket, I reassure him he could probably play for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off, which would have worked had the air line not read the letter and also discover the video game ban.
After checking in we have half an hour. I go to buy my nephew food remembering that I had already provided a sandwich and salt infused delicacies to my four year old and send them both off to play on an indoor enclosed playground.
While my nephew downs a burger and chips I watch as Mr 4 year old busies himself in the playground shrieking with delight at a chasey game up the steps, down the slides through the nets, around the front to the maze games on the sides. But then, he is suspiciously still. We have both (my husband and I) seen this stillness before. It is the concentrated expression of a child familiar with the concept of toilets but happily refusing to use one.
He leans over the fence and asks where my nephew has gone, and when I reply that he is just having some dinner he announces, as though merely commenting on the weather
I done a poo
Mild panic ensues, because in the rush to get to the emergency department I have grabbed the wrong handbag. I have the one with the useless content of iPod, earphones, novel, perfume, keys, purse, and lipstick. The one with the matchbox cars, half a muesli bar, spare jocks, wipes, nappy-bags, pull-ups and spare clothes is sitting at home dangling pointlessly at the end of my bed, as if mocking my complete inadequacy as a new parent.
I tentatively feel the back of his pants and sure enough there is a bomb in there. Let me tell you, four year old poo is repulsive. And as if daring the universe to send me lurching from one crisis to another I enquire…
I suppose you’ve done a wee as well?
Yeah, he says brightly I show you.
and within seconds my hand is grabbed into his tiny fist and I am led to the steps where there is indeed a yellow pool threatening to contaminate the bare feet of the only other toddler present. Shit. I limp-sprint to the ladies toilet which is filled with happy travellers and burst into an open cubicle, bent down, arse in the air, running my fingers like a reverse hamster wheel around the toilet paper trying to find the end.
Shit, shit, shit, where’s the fucking end?
No joy. So I rush to another cubicle almost mowing down an elderly lady whose pursed lips of disapproval only just register as I dive for another toilet roll dispenser and start peeling it out in great big lengths. I run back out clean up the wee, apologise to the father of the other toddler and rush to inform security that a mop and bucket are required in the toddler playground. Hmmm. Right. We’ll get the cleaners onto that. But they didn’t, so we scooped up the kids and the uneaten food, united in our desperation to leave this place, where unsuspecting barefoot toddlers filled the playground, up and down the steps spreading remnants of wee.
So my four year old reeks, even after a trip to the loo with my husband, yet he happily races about, comfortable in his own stench and going commando, while a pair of poo soaked jocks permeates my big girl handbag.
My nephew is inconsolable. He starts to leave to go on the plane with the attendant and asks if I can come with him. I hug him and say reassuringly, almost pleading, no, you’ll be fine. But as you would expect, he is sad about leaving and desperate at the thought of no video games. Meanwhile my four year old has disappeared. We look panic-stricken and discover, too late, his interest in a Tour Down-under knitted bike display, which he immediately pulls down on top of him. And we have no time for heartfelt tearful goodbyes and reassuring hugs and kisses.
We distract the four year old by saying look at the plane about to leave but he is still shouting and screaming at my husband to “STOP TOUCHING ME” in response to any attempt to keep him still stop him running off again. So with the nephew on the plane and six mins until take-off we decide we can no longer take the suspicious looks and my husband’s mood is darker than the rumbling clouds of a tropical thunderstorm. We head for the car park as I text my nephew’s father to say he’s on his way.
As we get to the car my mobile starts ringing and I rifle through my bag, past the poo stained jocks and the excess toilet paper, to answer a call from the flight attendant who tersely informs me that my nephew has told them he is not feeling well and has been removed from the plane. I need to come and collect him. I reassure him he was perfectly fine and just upset, but he abruptly insists I NEED to come back and collect him.
I now have to phone the father of my nephew and explain why I said he was in the air when he was actually still in the terminal, and inform him of this new situation. You can imagine he was very pleased with this little change in plans. We get to the gate after having to enter security – again. My husband had to take his shoes off – again (steel caps for his work uniform). Luckily this time my four year old did not run through the security gate to give my husband his phone and keys, triggering the alarms and then my husband then having to put his phone and keys through security a second time (this happened on the way in, the first time around.) I can report that security do not find these four year old antics endearing and gave us a look that communicated
…get your kid under control and don’t think for a minute you are going to escape the explosives search – all in the twitch of an eyebrow.
When I get to the gate the attendant promptly reprimands me for leaving in the first place before the plane had left and my husband has a minor melt-down and cracks it at the attendant. Smoothing troubled waters is my forte, so I explain we didn’t realise this was a requirement, whereupon he shows me the written agreement, there, clearly, in the miniscule print on the forms that we have to sign seconds before they give us a boarding pass.
He then gives me a number to ring to get a new time and ticket. I am having heart failure at the thought of the cost and tell my poor nephew I am very cross and he is going to cost us hundred of dollars. He cries – he is only 8, after all, and has been to the emergency department that day. So then I feel bad and start to cry too…of course, because this is always such a helpful strategy in a crisis.
The attendant refuses to make alternative flight arrangement – probably because his shift is up – but kindly shoves me a piece of paper under my nose with the number to ring. I ring – still in tears and talk to a guy in a call centre somewhere in New Delhi, who cannot understand me in distress mode, so I calm down and speak with clear, calm enunciation. He still cannot understand me, probably because he is an English as second language employee in a call centre in New Delhi.
So you are planning to book another ticket to Adelaide?
Well I was not planning to book another ticket anywhere, I HAVE to book another ticket to Brisbane, not Adelaide…sniff
So I repeat the story, three times and he finally tells me to go down stairs to the information desk and make the alternative flight arrangements and when I ask if I have to pay and he says no, I almost start kissing the receiver on my phone.
We get downstairs, but there is no information desk. Of course. So I go to the baggage claim area, in tears again! Hayley, bless her cotton socks, interprets my distressed sobs into something resembling English and does her best to find someone, anyone who can help. It’s not looking promising, but after 10 minutes of to-ing and fro-ing with various persons on other end of walky talkies and telephones she comes through with the goods and gets me a new flight tomorrow evening.
The nephew is in fresh tears because he thinks all this is his fault and she is very consoling, as am I. After I have dried my face, calmed the nephew and myself I finally turn my attention to the boy who has been howling at mega decibels “KAWEN” for about an hour. (At one point my husband retreated into the family room near the toilets to avoid the accusing stares of passers-by.) Because remember this child calls us by our first names, not mum or dad, so my husband is scarlet from the shame of appearing like a child abuser simply by picking him up and carrying him because he refuses not to run away.
He is snotty and desperate for a hug which he promptly rejects when we finally reaches the car park and runs off to play in the car park traffic. I grab him before he makes it and he lays on the floor.
STOP IT KAWEN, DON’T PUSH ME, LET ME GO, HELP, HELP ME – so loud windscreens are starting to tremble…
No, you lose your right to walk by yourself when you are not safe, so you have to hold my hand
I managed to get this whole sentence out calmly, if in a little sing-song voice of the contained hysterical, and even without gritted teeth. Go me. Mother of the year.
THEN, I have to inform the father of my nephew of this latest development and plan for another day with the two of them and a second trip to the airport.
Cue circus music – da da dadada da da dadada.
Welcome to first time parenthood, Karen. AAAAAAAAAAAARGH.
Phew, so glad I got that out there. At the time of writing this, my four year old was asleep and looking angelic. He is beautiful and I would not trade the experience of being a parent for anything.
But good God, it’s a tough gig.